Obituary of John Henry Finney
John Henry Finney was born October 10, 1937 in Accomack County, Virginia on the Eastern Shore to John H. and Tassie Ames Finney. After his mother’s death, he was adopted and raised by his uncle and aunt Rufus W. and Annie Madison Finney in Norfolk, Virginia. He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings Dorothy, Julia, Lennell, Ernest and Mae Finney.
He was educated in Norfolk Public Schools and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1955. He enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (now University) in 1956 majoring in music education and played the trumpet in A&T’s Marching Band. During his undergraduate years, became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated . While at A&T he met Margaret Alston and they married in 1960. John later attended Columbia University in New York earning a Master of Arts; during that time he enjoyed seeing many of the jazz greats playing at historic clubs including the Cotton Club and Savoy. He also earned a professional degree from Old Dominion University.
John began his teaching career in Southport, North Carolina. He returned to the Tidewater area and taught at Seatack, Seaboard, Bettie F. Williams Elementary Schools and Union Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach. He went on to serve as the Director of Bands at various schools in Norfolk Public School System, retiring from Ruffner Middle School where he served as Department Chair. He worked as an instructor with an after school Multicultural Education program for four years. For thirteen summers, John worked in Accomack County, Virginia with the Virginia Migrant Education Program as a music teacher, coordinator and presenter at conferences for the state of Virginia, across the East Coast. John was a member of the Music Educators National Conference and was awarded the status of Nationally Registered Music Educator. He was also a life member of the National Education Association.
Throughout his life, he was dedicated to God and his church family serving as a Trustee for twenty-five years at The Historic First Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia and served as Chair of the Board of Trustees. John played in the church school orchestra as a child and as an adult. He was a church school teacher, a member of Missionary Interact Circle and volunteered at the church’s former assisted living facility, Shepherd’s Way and with the church’s Tutorial Ministry. In the 1990s, he served as the General Chairperson of the Ten Year Planning Council, then as the Chairperson of the Campaign 2000, which led to the expansion of the church campus. When the church opened READY Academy Christian School in 2004, John volunteered as the music teacher and served for several years. He was a founding member of the Men’s Progressive League and later served as its president. John was honored as Man of the Year and Missionary of the Year at First Baptist Church. He was a founding officer, treasurer, of the Tidewater Youth and Advisors Fellowship Conference.
John was committed to the participation of men in ministry and demonstrated this through his involvement in several national, regional and state Baptist organizations. He was the President of the Men’s Division of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia. John was involved with Lott Carey Baptist Missionary Society and served as Vice President of the affiliated Tidewater Metro Baptist Laymen's League. For eight years, he was a member of the General Board of American Baptist Churches USA; he also served on the Board of American Baptist Men USA. In American Baptist Churches of the South, John served as President of the Men’s Division in addition to Director of District 13 and was recognized for his outstanding service in the organization in 2014.
John believed in community and was active with the L&J Gardens Civic League where he served as president from 1982 through 1985. He was a member of Optimist International and he was also active in supporting the election of democratic governors Chuck Robb, Gerald Baliles and Douglas Wilder. He was a member of the Hunton YMCA board.
John is survived by his wife, Margaret Alston Finney, son, John “Fitz” Fitzgerald Finney, daughter, Jacqueline “Jackie” Finney Mullins, a host of siblings-in-love, cousins, nieces, nephews and dear friends.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the First Baptist Church Bute Street READY Academy in John’s name. 418 East Bute Street, Norfolk, VA 23510.
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